Opposition targets Pawar for 1200 crore loss over pulse imports
Sharad Pawar was targeted by the Opposition today in the Rajya Sabha over reports that the government lost more than Rs. 1200 crore because the import and distribution of pulses was mishandled when Mr Pawar headed the Ministry for Consumer Affairs and Distribution. He is now Agriculture Minister.
A report by the government's auditor says that from 2006-2011, the ministry did not monitor the import of pulses and that there was no well-planned strategy to ensure their efficient distribution. Instead of the government distributing low-cost imported pulses through its Public Distribution System, as was decided by the Cabinet, private companies were given the imported consignments through a skewed tender process.
Four state-owned trading agencies suffered significant losses as a result. The prices of pulses also did not stabilise, says the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Retail prices increased because imports weren't large enough and the distribution system was faulty.
The state-owned trading agencies - MMTC, STC, PEC and Nafed - were asked to import pulses in 2006 by the government. They brought in 30.04 lakh tonnes and sold 26.95 lakh tonnes of pulses against the targeted quantity of import and sale of 53.10 lakh tonnes of pulses. The report says that prices offered by bidders were substantially lower than the import prices paid, so the pulses were sold at substantial losses by the agencies. Of the 1200 crores in losses, nearly 900 crores were incurred on account of yellow peas which continued to be imported despite negligible demand. "What was the demand for different kind of pulses? They (Ministry of Consumer Affairs) had no idea. They did not conduct any survey for assessing the demand and went in for adhoc target," Deputy CAG Malashri Prasad said.
These agencies attributed the losses to a rise in global prices of pulses, depreciation of the Indian rupee, exchange rate fluctuation, lower sales realisation than the landed cost of pulses, sharp fall in crude oil and ocean freight charges and the global meltdown, the report said. CAG officials say some of these reasons are valid.